Skip to Main Content
News@Ivey · Communications

Ian Rosen, HBA '11, shares lessons learned from driving change

Sep 28, 2023

Ian Rosen Speaking To HBA Students

Ian Rosen, HBA '11, speaking to HBAs at annual Richard G. Ivey Speaker Series

If we don’t inspire loyalty, we’re just another storefront in a world of proliferated storefronts." — Ian Rosen, HBA ’11, President & COO, Harry Rosen

Each year, Ivey welcomes a business leader to speak to HBA students and share advice and lessons learned throughout their career as part of the School’s Richard G. Ivey Speaker Series. This year, Ivey was thrilled to welcome Ian Rosen, HBA ’11, President and Chief Operating Officer at luxury men's clothing retailer Harry Rosen, who shared key takeaways from the past few years as the company underwent transformative changes.

When he joined Harry Rosen in 2018, the family business was facing a time of change. Online shopping was on the rise, and the working world was becoming increasingly casual, shifting from wearing tailored suits every day, to denim and sweaters.

“I came in and was thinking, this can’t be the business we build moving forward,” said Rosen. “There’s a number of things we have to change and evolve for us to be competitive in the modern world.” Serving as the EVP of Digital and Strategy, Rosen had to “mobilize people around a vision.”

Rosen shared with the students the steps he and his team took to transform Harry Rosen into the business it is today.

Determine a case for change

With online shopping projected to grow, Harry Rosen needed to overhaul its ecommerce strategy, which at the time was only four per cent of its business.

“I really tried to underscore to our team that we’re not choosing what our customers’ expectations are,” said Rosen. “Our customers’ experiences are changing the way they think about shopping, and we have to meet those demands.”

Make the vision crisp and the ask crisper

Rosen walked the students through the business’s strategy to inspire true loyalty among its clients and to create a vision for its revamped website.

“If we don’t inspire loyalty, we’re just another storefront in a world of proliferated storefronts,” he said.

When creating a vision for Harry Rosen’s online presence, he noted that “everybody has a different mission, but they’re using the same resource. The customer is asking so many different questions and our digital experience has to meet each and every one of them.”

When life throws you lemons, just start squeezing

When COVID hit in March 2020, Rosen’s team had to completely overhaul their strategy to go live with their new ecommerce experience in record timing, even if that meant temporary trade-offs regarding special site features.

Rosen also shared why a vision for true loyalty is so important for shaping the customer’s digital journey. By replicating the in-store advisor experience, which Harry Rosen is so well known for, the team made the online shopping experience more personal, “taking the in-store magic into the digital age.”

Lessons learned

Without alignment, everything is just words on a page. One of the things that made our transformation successful is we didn’t just say ‘here’s our strategy,’ we made sure that everybody was understanding of where we wanted to go and that they could articulate it to their teams. Alignment is so important for moving forward.”
To drive change effectively at any scale, you need to roll up your sleeves and get to the details of how the work gets done, but you don’t need to do it yourself. If you’re not putting in the effort to understand how somebody is doing their job, it’s really hard for you to help them set themselves up for success as a leader.”

Closing his address to students with a personal mantra, Rosen projected a famous Mark Twain quote on the screen: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.”